Several Ukrainians have been charged with smuggling in at least seven immigrants, although authorities say the operation likely involved many more immigrants.
Four of the defendants, two men and two women, were arraigned yesterday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on charges of smuggling and extortion.
The defendants allegedly used threats of violence to ensure the immigrants they trafficked would later pay off their debts to them. The defendants helped prepare false visa applications for the immigrants in Eastern Europe and then would smuggle them into America, according to court papers filed by prosecutors. The immigrants were charged between $13,000 and $19,500. Those who failed to repay their smuggling debts were physically threatened, a federal prosecutor, Winston Chan, said yesterday at the arraignment.
In one instance, a defendant, Oktavian Kupchanko, said he would have the wife and daughters of one of the immigrants raped because the immigrant was behind on his debts, according to a court papers filed by prosecutors.